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Cath Everett

Sift Media

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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Update: Royal Mail Christmas temps threaten walk-out


Seasonal temp staff at a Royal Mail sorting office in Birmingham are threatening a second walk-out after delays in paying their wages.

According to the BBC, thirty four workers at the postal service’s Newtown depot already walked out on Monday over unpaid or incorrect wage payments as did personnel in Essex. Similar action was taken last week at a sorting office in Wolverhampton.

Agency staff are meant to be paid on a weekly basis, but some of the temps at Newtown attest that they have not received a wage in three weeks. Royal Mail said that it had experienced problems with its payroll system and that workers would be paid as soon as possible.

In a statement, the company said that affected staff would be issued with a voucher for their pay, which they could cash in at any Post Office branch. A spokesman said: "We apologise for this as our temporary Christmas staff are very important to us. Firm action is being taken to resolve outstanding pay issues. We apologise for the difficulties that this situation has caused to a minority of our temporary workers."

But administrative failures by Royal Mail’s in-house staffing agency have also allegedly led to temps being turned away, ID badges sent to the wrong place and start dates and locations being issued at extremely short notice.
According to the Guardian, it has received about 100 complaints from candidates for Royal Mail Christmas jobs, which have mainly been directed against Anguard Staffing Solutions, an in-house employment agency that was set up earlier this year to deal with the postal service’s need for temporary workers. Anguard is owned by Royal Mail and partly managed by Reed Specialist Recruitment.
Many of the complaints claimed that people had been kept in the dark about the status of their applications and had experienced difficulties in getting through to Anguard to find out more information.
But Royal Mail pointed out that it had received 110,000 applications for 18,000 temporary posts, although it acknowledged that, in some areas, the agency had struggled to cope with the “exceptionally large” numbers involved.
High volumes
A spokesman said: “We are, of course, very sorry if anyone feels the recruitment process has not met the high standards Royal Mail always seek to achieve. We are very confident that would be the view of a very small minority. If anyone feels they have not been treated fairly, we would welcome hearing from them.”
Examples of the kinds of complaints received by the newspaper included a worker who arrived at a Birmingham sorting office for his first shift at the appointed time, only to be turned away because he was not on the ‘signing in’ list.
He and between 35 and 40 others in a similar boat were told to contact Anguard, but were unable to get through on the official 0845 telephone number, which simply played a recorded message saying that it had been disabled due to high call volumes.
Other people claimed that their security photo ID, which is required to access sorting offices, was not ready by the time they were due to start work and, in some instances, had been sent to the wrong depot.
Yet others complained of being given less than 24 hours’ notice of start times and dates or of having had them switched around at short notice. One applicant said: “I got a call at 11am telling me to report for work at 6am the following morning. I was happy I’d got the job, but then the caller told me the location had changed from Coventry to Nuneaton.”
The Royal Mail spokesman said: “In the huge majority of cases, new joiners were given at least a week’s notice before they were due to begin work and, in many cases, it was several weeks. However, a small number of the people who had accepted an offer of a job did not turn up. It meant we had to fill some vacancies very quickly.”
But the original job offers had made it clear that changes may have to be made at short notice due to operational requirements, he added.
Dave Ward, deputy general secretary of the Communication Workers Union, which represents permanent postal workers, said it had received similar complaints.
“With unemployment so high, the volume of applicants this year has been huge, but if you’re dealing with people’s employment, you should do everything possible to treat them fairly. Agency workers are often vulnerable, so raising their hopes of earning Christmas money and crushing them by turning them away is awful,” he said.
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Cath Everett

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

Read more from Cath Everett

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